Friday, April 20, 2018

BOOKS: Mysteries from Iceland and Australia

I've found two new international mystery series - one from Iceland and one from Australia. My list of series at is getting longer and longer!

Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson (audiobook 6 h 38 min, read by Quentin Bates)
Dark Iceland Series #2

 Iceland with its isolation and the lack of sunlight seems to make it the perfect location for mysteries. I've very much enjoyed the Arnaldur Indridason police series so finding a new series set in Iceland was a major find. Unfortunately I listened to the second book before the first but I'd like to go back and find the first. A policeman is shot, and Ari Thor, another local cop has to look into the people he knows. I always prefer police procedurals, and this one was great. Lots of people with secrets and things to hide, and it is up to Ari Thor to figure out which parts belong to the murder. 
I believe there are 5 written in the series already, but my library doesn't have them so I'll have to look around elsewhere for them.

The Dry by Jane Harper (audiobook, 9 h 44 min, read by Stephen Shanahan)
Aaron Falk #1

I really liked this mystery set in Australia during a drought. A local boy, now living in the big city as an investigator is brought home for the funeral of his childhood friend who has massacred his family, apparently due to debt. Once he gets home, a previous murder from his childhood comes back to the forefront. So a great back and forth in time, with secrets and mysteries from past and present as Aaron Falk deals with his grief and his past. I liked this one so much I've already got the second one, A Force of Nature, downloaded to listen to. This seems like a great series to get in on at the beginning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BOOKS: Eleanor Oliphant and the 100 Year Old Man

I read two of those 'got to read' books in January and had very different reactions to them. One was the best of the month, and the other was not.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, 400 pages

The clever title makes this memorable and maybe I inferred the type of story from the unusual title. I imagined it would be like A Man Called Ove, a touching growth story. I imagined wrong. So maybe my disappointment with the book was based on wrong expectations, and that is on me. The title event happens early and then some crazy, unrealistic things happen. Some of them I found mildly humourous, but most were so ridiculous that it strained credulity. There was an element of Forrest Gump, the idiot who lands in famous situations - here, Allan Karlson meets every major leader of the 20th century, becomes integrally involved in Chinese, American, Iranian, and Russian politics, and always lands on his feet after blowing something up. The story was mainly narrative - this happens, now this happens, now this happens. There was no character development and plenty of deaths. Also it was too long but I finished it without hating it, just a little bored. The title is the best part, along with the elephant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (audiobook 11 h 2 min, read by Cathleen McCarron)

Again, mixed expectations changed my experience of the book, but this time, in a good way. Eleanor was a complex character, and her back story as it was gradually revealed drew me further and further into the story. Eleanor's sad life and loneliness will break your heart, and then as she gradually makes a friend everything begins to change. Any time a book gets me crying, it moves the book to the excellent pile. Eleanor Oliphant is delightful.
Add this to the loneliness books such as Our Souls at Night and  Eleanor Rigby,

Sunday, April 15, 2018

BOOKS: Nonfiction from March

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (audiobook 7 h 47 min, read by the author)
I don't watch the Bachelor very much but I do like a lot of reality television so this behind the scenes look at 'a very special episode' tell all is right up my alley. Kaufman is  a fan/journalist who covers The Bachelor. 

If you are a fan of the show, or interested in behind the scenes of television shows, give this one a try. I couldn't tell you any specific juicy details, but they were there. Included are short essays by famous super fans who detail what it is about The Bachelor they like. Also, there is content relating to feminism - does The Bachelor series set back women, or are they empowered by making their decisions? Discuss.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (audiobook, 9 h 52 min, read by Gabra Zackman)

McNamara died in 2016 (Patton Oswalt's wife) and this book, her life's work of research, was partly written by McNamara and partly put together by the editor and her husband. McNamara was obsessed by a particular killer in California and spent years researching. The parts she wrote are very well done and it's too bad that she won't be able to write any more books. Fans of true crime books will want to read this one.

It was full of stories of break-ins and rapes and murders and I managed to freak myself out one night on the way to bed when I thought I heard someone at the door. I froze, did not answer the door, and didn't listen to it late at night any more. I don't usually get spooked like that; I grew up reading Stephen King! 

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Midlife Misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela by Jane Christmas  288 pages

While reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I never felt the desire to walk a long trail, but this one in Spain almost intrigued me. Maybe it was because the author decided to walk it after she turned 50. Or because she (accidentally) organized a group of women to walk with her. Mostly because it is a huge tourist trail, with hostels and accommodations all along the trail and it sounds very relatively civilized.

Most of the story revolves around how a group of women followed Christmas to Spain thinking they were a group and that they were organized. They weren't; they all had different goals and expectations in going. I felt a little bad for them in that the author did not make them sound very good and mocked them a bit (with pseudonyms). So, when did she decide to write the book - before or after the two month hike?  However, the story was good and my book club, a group of 50 something ladies, all enjoyed the book.